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Sustainability and Discounted Utilitarianism in Models of Economic Growth

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  • Geir B. Asheim
  • Tapan Mitra

Abstract

Discounted utilitarianism treats generations unequally and leads to seemingly unappealing consequences in some models of economic growth. Instead, this paper presents and applies sustainable discounted utilitarianism (SDU). SDU respects the interests of future generations and resolves intergenerational conflicts by imposing on discounted utilitarianism that the evaluation be insensitive to the interests of the present generation if the present is better off than the future. An SDU social welfare function always exists. We provide a convenient sufficient condition to identify SDU optima and apply SDU to two well-known models of economic growth. We also investigate the axiomatic basis for SDU.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2521.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2521

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Keywords: intergenerational equity; sustainability; discounted utilitarianism; egalitarian consumption streams; efficiency; exhaustible resources;

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  1. Heal, G., 1998. "Valuing the Future: Economic Theory and Sustainability," Papers 98-10, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  2. Asheim,G.B. & Buchholz,W. & Tungodden,B., 1999. "Justifying sustainability," Memorandum 08/1999, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  3. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2005. "Possibility Theorems for Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams Equitably," Working Papers 05-05, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  4. Richard Beals & Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1967. "Maximizing Stationary Utility in a Constant Technology," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 229, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  5. Asheim, Geir B. & Tungodden, Bertil, 2005. "A new equity condition for infinite utility streams and the possibility of being Paretian," Memorandum 08/2005, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  6. Cass, David, 1990. "Indefinitely sustained consumption despite exhaustible natural resources," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9027, CEPREMAP.
  7. Banerjee, Kuntal, 2006. "On the equity-efficiency trade off in aggregating infinite utility streams," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 63-67, October.
  8. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with Inter-generational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Working Papers 03-03, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  9. Benveniste, L M & Scheinkman, J A, 1979. "On the Differentiability of the Value Function in Dynamic Models of Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 727-32, May.
  10. Cass, D & Yaari, M E, 1971. "Present Values Playing the Role of Efficiency Prices in the One-Good Growth Model," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(115), pages 331-39, July.
  11. Asheim, Geir B, 1988. "Rawlsian Intergenerational Justice as a Markov-Perfect Equilibrium in a Resource Technology," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 469-83, July.
  12. Geir Asheim & Tapan Mitra & Bertil Tungodden, 2012. "Sustainable recursive social welfare functions," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 267-292, February.
  13. Epstein, Larry G., 1986. "Intergenerational consumption rules: An axiomatization of utilitarianism and egalitarianism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 280-297, April.
  14. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
  15. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1959. "Stationary Ordinal Utility and Impatience," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 81, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  16. Dasgupta, Swapan & Mitra, Tapan, 1983. "Intergenerational Equity and Efficient Allocation of Exhaustible Resources," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 133-53, February.
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